MADRID – Crown Prince Naruhito has met in Madrid with a number of Japanese professionals based in Spain, including Etsuro Sotoo, chief sculptor at the World Heritage-listed Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.
At a gathering Monday at the Madrid residence of Japan’s ambassador to Spain, the Crown Prince asked Sotoo, 59, how the more than century-old project has been progressing recently.
“Since I am doing my best, I would be glad if you could come over” for a personal inspection, Sotoo replied.
The Crown Prince also talked with Mitsue Iwakura, a 28-year-old player with Atletico Madrid’s female soccer team.
The 53-year-old heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne is on a week-long visit to Spain that includes formal meetings with the country’s royal family and the opening of a bilateral business cooperation council.
He will leave Madrid on Thursday to tour other cities and visit the small town of Coria del Rio, population 30,000, not far from the Andalusian capital of Seville in southern Spain.
In Coria del Rio, the Crown Prince will view a bronze statue of Hasekura Tsunenaga, a samurai who led a historic seven-year diplomatic mission to Europe that departed Japan in October 1613 and arrived in the Iberian Peninsula a year later.
Tsunenaga, who was baptized during his time in Spain, traveled to Coria del Rio along the Guadalquivir River and stayed in the town for a while. Some of his delegation are believed to have remained even after Tsunenaga’s return to Japan in 1620.
Hundreds of residents in Coria del Rio carry the family name “Japon” to demonstrate their supposed Japanese ancestry. According to the Spanish media, many babies in the town are born with the “Mongolian spot,” a temporary bruise-colored birthmark common among North Asians but that can also occur among Europeans.